“…he also described the formative influences of recordings by Frank Zappa, as well as hearing a live performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra of Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments when he was 16 years old … all these elements fuse with an even greater stylistic sweep on a new Delos CD devoted to two of Hickey’s concertos, one for cello and one for clarinet. On the surface they seem extremely formal, almost old fashioned. Both are cast in the traditional three-movement concerto form that has been the norm since the 18th century. But behind this scaffolding is a very personal artistic response to the huge breadth of music that was created in the 20th century when every tradition was challenged. In its reconciliation of these seeming polarities, it is very much music of our own time.
The Cello Concerto (2008) was commissioned by the Russian cellist Dmitry Kouzov, who premiered the work under the baton of the St. Petersburg-based conductor Vladimir Lande (who both appear on the present recording). From its almost militaristic brass opening through its frequently anguished solo lines, the music seems to follow in the footsteps (perhaps appropriately) of the extraordinary Russian cello concertos of the Soviet era—e.g. works by Shostakovich and Kabalevsky. But Hickey’s completely un-Slavic orchestration—where a constant array of different combinations of instruments keep suddenly rising to the surface—reveal this to be music written long after Perestroika. It certainly is music that is inspired by 21st-century events—though he does not intend it in any way to be listened to as programmatic music. Hickey confesses in his program notes that the cello’s mournful sounding melodic passages in the second movement were his personal response to the war raging in Iraq as he was composing the work. In the third movement, Hickey’s modular scoring techniques become even more prominent, almost turning it into a bizarre cross between a cello concerto and a concerto for orchestra.
While there are no such orchestrational oddities in Hickey’s earlier Clarinet Concerto (2006), originally composed for clarinetist David Gould but performed on the recording by Alexander Fiterstein, it is a formidable work chock full of instantly appealing melodies—including fragments of several traditional Scottish airs—that is a significant contribution to the concerto literature for this most malleable of reed instruments…” — Frank J. Oteri, NewMusicBox
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